28 September 2017 – 06:20 Bekezela Phakathi
Phase two of the land-audit report is due to be processed by the Cabinet and released to the public by the end of October, says Rural Development and Land Reform Minister Gugile Nkwinti.
The government needs a land audit to develop an accurate record of all public agricultural land and to assess the performance of its land-reform programme.
The inadequacy of reform since 1994 has prompted calls for the Constitution to be changed for land to be expropriated without compensation.
Responding to a written question in Parliament from Freedom Front Plus leader Pieter Groenewald, Nkwinti said on Wednesday that finalisation of the report was delayed after it was considered by the Cabinet in June and then returned to his department for the “development of definitive proposals”.
Responding to a question from the DA, Nkwinti said the audit would be brought to Parliament as soon as it was approved by the Cabinet.
The first audit showed that about 14% of land was owned by the state and more than 79% was owned by individuals, companies and trusts.
“We have just concluded phase two [of the] land audit in terms of land ownership by race, gender and nationality, but still face further challenges as a result of the absence of information in respect of institutions such as trusts, private and public organisations and companies, as well as sectional title holdings,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Agriculture Business Chamber (Agbiz) has said that taking land without compensation would have a knock-on effect that was likely to affect the people the land reform programme was supposed to benefit most.
Agbiz CEO John Purchase said agriculture relied on bond financing to buy inputs necessary to produce food for the nation. Total agricultural debt was estimated at R160bn with the majority secured by mortgage bonds.
He said that with expropriation without compensation “the R160bn tied up in agricultural investments could be lost and the banks will suffer major losses”. News of the banks losing large sums of money “could trigger what is known as a run on the banks”.
“Because banks use money deposited by their clients to fund investments, they do not have enough liquid funds to pay out all of their clients wanting to withdraw at once,” he said.